The Darien Gap

Austin Chronicle

DIRECTED BY: Brad Anderson

REVIEWED: 07-14-97

Lyn Vaus, Sandi Carroll, Job Emerson. (Not Rated, 90 min.)

Brillo-haired, lizard-lidded Lyn Vaus is what you might call the definitive slacker: homeless, jobless, scamming free meals off Hare Krishnas, trudging around Boston's bohemia shooting video of his layabout friends for a dubious-sounding movie that will "define our generation." His ultimate dream in life? Trekking to remote Patagonia for a bonding experience with - but of course - the Giant Sloth of Indian legend. All that stands in the way of his triumphal journey is an 80-mile marsh (the "Darien Gap") which cuts off the Pan-American Highway in Central America. This summary brings you fully up to speed on the sensibilities of director Brad Anderson's 1994 indie feature. Whimsical, eccentric, and full of earnestly cornball symbolism, it's shot through with Gen-X stereotypes, yet blessed with a disarming self-awareness that helps you easily overlook its minor failings. Vaus, played by a Boston musician of the same name, is a perfect centerpiece for Anderson's gently melancholic humor. A doughy, misfit artist-manqué who blames his parents' broken marriage ("All generations have their excuses for fucking up," one character says, "but ours is the lamest... divorce"), he dreams of love, success, and a career, but can't muster the commitment to win them. Like his feckless actor father (Emerson) before him, he responds to stress chiefly by taking vacations. Predictably, his energetic fashion designer girlfriend, Polly Joy (Carroll, a terrific actress whom I peg for future stardom) is getting fed up with Lyn's hothouse flower temperament. By tossing him out of her life and apartment, she sends him a clear message that it's time to escape the holding pattern in which his life is stuck. But The Darien Gap doesn't rely on the resolution of this or its other minor plotlines to hold your attention. Instead, this offhandedly incisive, soulful, visually inventive movie draws you in with the seductiveness of a funny, rambling story told by a tipsy ex-lover in a warm room on a cool autumn night. The allure isn't the substance of the tale but the poignant, openhearted manner in which it's told.

3.0 stars

--Russell Smith

Other Films by Brad Anderson
Next Stop Wonderland

Film Vault Suggested Links
Man on the Moon
It's in the Water
Dream With The Fishes

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